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Faint Hope for Pakistan?

Good news from Pakistan has been hard to come by over the past few years, but perhaps that is finally beginning to change. Although it will not end the decades-long nuclear standoff between the two countries, Pakistan’s decision to grant Most Favored Nation status to India is a small, symbolic but possibly significant step away from one of the world’s oldest and most toxic conflicts. The Washington Post reports:

The decision by the Pakistani military to drop its long-standing objection to closer trade ties with India was interpreted partly as a reflection of the parlous state of Pakistan’s economy and as a measure to counter Islamabad’s increasing diplomatic isolation. […]

But there is little doubt that the atmospherics between the South Asian neighbors have improved since their foreign ministers promised a new era of more stable relations at a meeting in New Delhi in July. […]

Islamabad has looked increasingly isolated in recent months, its relations deteriorating with the United States and souring with its western neighbor Afghanistan. In that context, acrimonious relations with India have seemed less attractive.

“Pakistan’s strained ties with the United States has pushed it to look for more foreign policy options, to go for increasing ties with friendly states in the neighborhood like China, and also to improve the relations with nuclear neighbor India,” said Hasan-Askari Rizvi, a Pakistani political and defense analyst.

Perhaps something good will come out of the US-Pakistan rift after all. The long unraveling of America and Pakistan’s strategic alliance has sent Pakistan’s always-chaotic foreign policy to a new low point — Pakistan is now weaker than all of its foes and without friends in its neighborhood. Years of self-destructive and unpredictable policies have left Pakistan in a tenuous position, and the deterioration of the relationship with its most powerful ally has left it exposed.

Could all this bad news be causing second thoughts in the Pakistani security establishment?  Pakistan has a penchant for disappointing expectations, but even a faint hope for improvement is better than nothing.  And something else to ponder: the positive turn suggests that tough love from the US may help Pakistan more than lavish aid.

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  • Luke Lea

    I Pakistan even a state?

    We tend to assume that places with national borders and capital cities are political states as we think of them in the West. But a state is defined as having a government with “a monopoly of power” within its jurisdiction. By this standard Pakistan is not a state, anymore than Afghanistan and (as will soon become evident) Iraq and Libya are states. Iran, apparently, is a state, on the other hand, as is Saudi Arabia, in both cases qualified by the phrase “at least for the time being.”

    The explanation, I’ve gradually come to realize, is the tribal and clan-based organization of these societies, which, in turn, is largely a result of the prevalence of first-cousin marriages within them. An individual’s primary allegiance in such societies is to their extended family, not to society as a whole. Only in the West, where cousin-marriage has been suppressed for centuries, is true individualism possible, which underlies the whole concept of liberal democracy, individual rights, and sovereign power which we take for granted.

    This thinking is not original with me. Far from it. Hbd chick has assembled the evidence and the arguments in support of this point of view, and it is to her blog I go to learn more about it.

    Let me close with a simple proposition: realism is the first requirement for moral responsibility in this world. Naiveté and wishful thinking are not. If nothing else I hope our ten year venture into South West Asia turns out to have been a valuable learning experience — a “teachable moment” in the words of our president.

  • Riki Tiki Tavi

    It is no surprise that bad US-Pak relations lead to an improvement in Indo-Pak relations. After all who has underwritten bad Pakistani behavior in the past? If the US wants to make a significant dent in Pakistan’s behavior, it must be willing to unequivocally say to Pakistan, “we no longer see you as a hedge against India, and will not support your irredentist, Islamist goals in South Asia and beyond,” and act on the implications of this statement. The US has of course signaled this new sentiment in many ways, by concluding the civil-nuclear deal with India, by defrocking Fai (the chief of the Kashmiri American Council in the pay of the ISI which the US knew all along), by publishing motivated commentary such as the recent article by the well-connected Schaffers in Foreign Policy magazine (“Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Kashmir: A Grand Bargain?”) that threatens Pakistan’s claims on Kashmir.

    But the Pakistani nation is not reading the signals correctly. Why? Because the latest signals are deeply threatening to the Pak military’s interests. And as everyone knows, it is the military that runs the show.

    Decades of domestic mismanagement, and decades of international mollycoddling, have brought Pakistan to a point where it has now become a very hard case to solve. This humpty-dumpty will have to be broken-up some more before it will come to its senses.

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